Plato's Counsel on Education



Plato's dialogues can be read as a carefully staged exhibition and investigation of paideia, education in the broadest sense, including all that affects the formation of character and mind. The twentieth century textbook Plato — the Plato of the Myth of the Cave and the Divided Line, the ascent to the Good through Forms and Ideas — is but one of his elusive multiple authorial personae, each taking a different perspective on his investigations. As its focused problems differ, each Platonic dialogue exhibits a somewhat different model for learning; each adds a distinctive dimension to Plato's fully considered counsel for education. Setting aside the important difficult questions about the chronological sequence in which the dialogues were written and revised, we can trace the argumentative rationale of Plato's fully considered views on paideia, on who should be educated by whom for what, on the stages and presuppositions of different kinds of learning. Those views are inextricably connected with his views about the structure of the soul, about the virtues and the politeia that can sustain a good life; and about cosmology and metaphysics.